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In the midst of a nationwide debate about gun control and school violence, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recently signed a bill that allows school faculty and staff to carry handguns on school property. Ohio joins several states across the country in the ongoing conversation about how to keep kids safe at schools.
While gun control has long been a topic of debate in the United States, the conversation around arming teachers, or allowing teachers to arm themselves, has seen an upsurge in recent years. This may be especially true in Michigan after the tragic shooting at Oxford High School in November 2021.
Michigan Policies Regarding Guns in Schools
As debates regarding school safety continue and neighboring states implement new policies, you may be wondering about Michigan’s current stance on school safety. Can teachers carry guns in classrooms? The answer is a bit less clear cut than one would think.
Michigan laws vs school policies
Under certain circumstances, teachers could potentially carry guns in Michigan schools. In Michigan, there is no law that prohibits individuals with a concealed pistol license, or CPL, from carrying a gun in schools as long as that gun stays visible. For CPL holders, a gun is only fully prohibited from being carried in a concealed, or hidden, way. Therefore, a person who holds a CPL is legally allowed to open carry a gun onto school property.
However, this does not necessarily mean that teachers (or other individuals) are actually able to be armed in classrooms.
According to the Michigan Court of Appeals, school districts have the right to decide for themselves whether to ban guns no matter how they are carried. If a district chooses to uphold a gun ban, anyone who carries a gun into schools can be asked, or even forced, to leave.
The issue remains anything but static. In 2017, a bill passed the Michigan Senate that would have prohibited schools from banning concealed carry guns. This bill has since been referred to the Judiciary Committee with little forward motion.
The topic of arming teachers was also a key discussion in this summer’s Republican gubernatorial debates, with candidates specifically raising the question of arming teachers. The issue certainly has the potential to arise again in the weeks leading up to the November Governor election between Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer and Republican challenger Tudor Dixon.
So what does this mean for local schools?
Currently, the decision to allow anyone, including teachers, to carry guns on school property remains firmly in the hands of the individual school districts.
While individual districts have considered moving toward arming teachers, it continues to be uncommon to see weapons of any kind allowed in Michigan schools.
Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) has traditionally taken a stance against arming teachers.
In response to the 2017 bill limiting schools’ abilities to ban weapons, the Board of Education of Ann Arbor Public Schools issued a statement titled Resolution to Oppose Legislation That Allows Guns in Schools.
In this statement, the school board directly opposed the bill and urged Michigan voters and politicians to vote against its passing. The AAPS PTO has also issued similar statements, including one which states that the “carrying of handguns in schools, open or concealed, through the possession of a CPL permit and waiver only increases the danger to students and is not in their best interests.”
While the nation-wide debate about how to keep children safe in schools intensifies, it is likely that discussions will continue regarding whether teachers should be allowed to carry guns in Michigan schools.
Author: Dr. Alyssa Whitford is a former K-12 teacher and current professor of education at Hope College in Holland, MI. She is passionate about literacy, social studies, and all things education. She is also a proud parent to two children of her own.